Junior doctors stage second day of strikes in further blow for the NHS

Junior doctors stage second day of strikes amid long-running pay row – defying Health Secretary’s warnings that walkout will disrupt the NHS and stop some patients being sent home from hospital for Christmas

Junior doctors today went on strike for a second day as the dispute over pay shows no sign of being resolved.

The 72-hour England-wide walkout, which began at 7am on December 20 and will run until the same time on Saturday, comes as the NHS grapples with one of its toughest winters on record.

The British Medical Association (BMA) announced the strike earlier this month after talks between junior doctors and the Government broke down. It will be followed by a six-day walkout from January 3, the longest in NHS history.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins warned that the ongoing action will result in some patients not being sent home from hospital in time for Christmas.

Doctors are seen at the picket line outside University College Hospital

She echoed concerns from leading health and patient organisations, who warned patients could be left ‘stranded’ in wards over the festive period.

Ms Atkins on Wednesday said she wanted to reach a ‘fair and reasonable’ settlement with doctors in training, but added: ‘I cannot do that if they’re on the picket line, rather than in hospitals looking after patients.’

She also raised concerns about consultants ‘picking up the slack’ for their striking junior colleagues, who make up almost half of the medical workforce.

Dr Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP and member of the Health and Social Care Committee, told Times Radio: ‘I personally think that to walk away from most patients, particularly this time of year, but to be honest, any time of year, leaving them to suffer, which they will in order to get themselves more money, I think is morally outrageous, completely indefensible.’

The BMA’s junior doctors committee has challenged the Government to make an offer so strikes could be cancelled.

It said the offer from the Government, an average 3% rise from January – on top of the average of nearly 9% recommended by the independent pay review body in April, was not enough to make up for below-inflation pay rises since 2008.

It has asked for a full pay restoration that the Government said would amount to a 35% pay rise – which ministers have said is unaffordable.

Conciliation service Acas said it is ‘ready to help’ resolve the dispute.

Protesters hold placards outside the University College Hospital in London

The NHS has said emergency and urgent care will be prioritised during the strikes and that ‘almost all’ routine care will be affected.

Hospital leaders have described the walkouts as their ‘worst fears realised’ as they grapple with a rising number of people needing help with winter viruses, particularly norovirus.

Junior doctors in Wales are planning a 72-hour walkout from January 15, while doctors in training in Northern Ireland are being balloted for potential strike action.

Junior doctors in Scotland have already come to an agreement with the Scottish Government.

Consultant doctors from the BMA in England have reached a deal with the Government, with members currently voting whether or not to accept the deal.

Specialist, associate specialist and specialty doctors (SAS) in England have also come to an agreement, which is being put to members.

Elsewhere, Ms Atkins has written to the bodies which recommend salary uplifts for NHS staff to ask them to begin looking at the pay round for 2024/25.

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